Tenants announced on Thursday a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court against the corporate landlord of Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village to prevent what they allege would be “likely” illegal deregulation.

“This neighborhood was built to be an affordable neighborhood for middle class families to be able to call their own community,” said City Councilman and tenant, Keith Powers at a sidewalk news conference outside the sprawling  housing complex. “Many families, like mine, were able to have the stability of living here because of rent protection laws that are in place.”

“It’s our [Senate] role to stand with the tenants association…” said New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, “to tell the landlord ‘Don’t mess with Stuytown, don’t mess with our rents. We know what we’re entitled to.'”

On July 1 around 6,000 apartments are at risk of a rent increase when the J-51 tax incentive is set to expire under under an agreement signed with the landlord Blackstone in 2015. Properties under the incentive are exempted from taxes relating to renovating residential apartment buildings.

Upon expiration the apartments could increase 5% every five years.  The market rate apartments in the complex have no rent restrictions.

But The tenant’s association argues that the tenants are still under protection because the agreement was overridden by of The Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act passed by the State Legislature and signed into law in 2019, which extended and made permanent the rent control and rent stabilization laws.

“In Albany, we did something every clear” said Holyman referring to the HSTPA. “We stated, in the law, that there is no expiration date on rent stabilized housing.”

According to the President of the tenant association, Susan Steinberg, Blackstone was under the impression that the law doesn’t apply to their agreement. However, Blackstone personally informed Steinberg that they will follow rent increase by the Rent Guidelines Board until the contract details are sorted out “even if it takes many months.”

‘We’re not here to bash anybody,” said Powers. “We are here to say that tenants deserve these protections, that we have a disagreement in the law, and that we are all seeking clarity in that.”

A spokesperson for Blackstone wrote in an email: “We welcome the Court’s involvement, but to be clear, no tenant subject to the J-51 program has seen an increase in rents above those legally allowed under rent stabilization.  We are confident that the Court will reaffirm the 2012 Roberts settlement, which explicitly stated that these J-51 units should no longer be subject to rent regulation as of June 2020.” 

Photo by Samantha Castro